Employment rates, health-care insurance, fuel costs and the increases in the cost of living continue to dominate the national news. Rochester in particular has felt these changes, in addition to the effects of major company downsizing.
Bonnie Hanly of Rochester had worked for Kodak for 15 years when the company laid her off. She then worked at Rochester General Hospital for 10 years, when again she found herself laid off and struggling to find a job.
Hopeful of finding employment, Hanly depleted her life’s savings to stay in her home of 19 years. Her efforts proved to be futile, however, when she faced foreclosure this fall.
“I’ve lost everything I’ve worked my whole life for,” Hanly said. “I’ve been to hundreds of places looking for work, and I’ve even applied at some companies twice. Believe me, I’m not lazy. I have a college degree, and I want to work so badly. But at 54, I just don’t know what to do anymore. It’s been a really hard time, and it’s hard not to just give up.”
Single with no job or home, Hanly considered living in her car with her beloved dog. Fortunately, the Diocese of Rochester referred her to Catholic Family Center’s Community Resource Services. Through this service, Hanly received emergency funding for an apartment, in addition to funding for basic living needs.
“Bonnie could be any of us,” said Bobbi McGarrity, a senior case manager for CFC. “She worked for years, and then she was downsized. I think we could all be in a similar situation with the economy the way it is. Unfortunately, Bonnie wants to work, but is struggling to get back on her feet. It’s been difficult for her.”
McGarrity explained that Hanly qualified for some social services, such as food-stamp benefits, but CFC has provided financial assistance for housing and fuel for her car to get to job interviews.
“The ultimate goal would be for Bonnie to become self-sufficient, and that’s what we strive for,” McGarrity said. “In order to do this we are helping her through this emergency fund, and I’m also advocating for her in trying to get welfare benefits and so on. We will try to be there for her as long as we can to get through this crisis. But for her sake, I hope it’s not too long. It’s been a very difficult stretch for her.”
“(Catholic Family Center) has done more for me than anyone,” she noted. “I don’t want to think about where I would have been without them.”
Last year, CFC’s Community Resource Services served more than 1,500 families with an estimated 6,000 children, adults and elderly. Services include a food pantry, clothing closet, prescription assistance and transportation. In addition, emergency funding is provided for housing or basic living expenses.
Grants, donations and the United Way provide the program with financial support. Funding from the annual Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal has been used to fill in any gaps in unforeseen expenses, such as Hanly’s.
“(Bobbi McGarrity and Catholic Family Center have) given me a lot of support, and not just financial,” Hanly said. “This situation is demoralizing, yet I try to stay optimistic. Bobbi has been my advocate, and she’s very bubbly. She’s kept my spirits up, because it’s degrading to not find work. Obviously she can’t pull a job out of a hat for me, but it’s nice to know that she is in my corner. I’m very grateful.”
Born in Corning, Hanly moved to Rochester when she was 16. She graduated from Cardinal Mooney High School, then went on to earn a degree in psychology from the State University of New York at Brockport. After graduation, she worked for Kodak on an assembly line, then in an administrative position. At Rochester General Hospital, she worked as a technician in the operating rooms.
“I’m motivated,” Hanly said. “I definitely have a sense of personal pride, and Hanlys don’t quit. I am determined to build myself back up, both financially and emotionally.”
McGarrity also has faith in Hanly’s success.
“Bonnie is not alone,” she said. “We are seeing more and more people like her who have lost their jobs. And there are more people from the suburbs who are looking for assistance as well. We will try to continue to advocate and do the best we can to get our clients through the crisis and back to self-sufficiency.”